Powering the West

ATCO Power’s Karratha power station
ATCO Power’s Karratha power station

Karratha’s latest gas-fired station plays a vital role energising Western Australia’s continued growth.

An energy surge is coming to Western Australia’s regional residents. In the state with the largest population growth in 2009, having a secure energy supply to match will be essential for continued development. Pivotal to this growth is ATCO Power’s Karratha power station in the Pilbara region north-west of Perth. Connected to the North West Interconnected System (NWIS) in early January with turbine tests to commence in February, the 86 MW station is touted as one of the most efficient gas-fired power station in the Pilbara. The station aims to meet increasing energy demand and to bring added security to the growing needs of the region.

The NWIS is on a rapid growth path with an unprecedented demand for power from the major resource companies and the communities of Karratha and Port Hedland. Constructed, owned, and operated by Canadian-based ATCOPower, the station will supply electricity to residential and business consumers of the stateowned energy company Horizon Power, under a long-term contract, while Epic Energy has constructed a new gas pipeline and build the gas infrastructure.

Horizon Power project manager, Harsh Grover manages the power station construction, ensures the gas to the power station is provided and the electricity from the power station is connected to the network. Involved with every major Horizon Power project since 2000, Mr Grover is excited by the technology being implemented in the Karratha station.

“Every bit of this project is fantastic,” Mr Grover told Energy Source & Distribution.

“This is the largest size (of) power station developed by Horizon Power. The last project involved five power stations in five different towns. Here it is one power station, but higher capacity with different technology. This is our first gas turbine power station with this level of involvement.”

The Pilbara is currently undergoing massive expansion both in terms of industry and population growth. Recently, the Premier of Western Australia, Colin Barnett announced the State Government’s vision of Pilbara Cities, with populations of more than 50,000 in both Port Hedland and Karratha. This almost trebles the current population. With Karratha online, Horizon Power will have a station dedicated to supplying local needs.

WA Minister for Energy, Training and Workforce Development, Peter Collier was positive about the long-term benefits of the project for the local community and state.

“This project will be a central component of the ongoing development of the region and its continuing contribution to the state. It not only creates employment opportunities for the construction workforce, but long-term will make a significant contribution to the local community,” Minister Collier said.

According to Mr Grover, the electricity industry in Western Australia differs from the eastern states. The South-Western Integrated System (SWIS), from Perth and surrounding towns, is where most of the loads and regulations are in effect. The NWIS is unregulated and the “poles and wires” are not owned by a single entity but instead a network part owned by BHP, Rio Tito and Horizon. Until now, electricity in the Pilbara was purchased from stations owned by mining companies with shared usage.

“What this power station does is establish better reliability and control for Horizon’s customers, and for the general development of that region, which matches up very closely with the vision the WA Government has for the Pilbara region. All the new developments they are talking about, 1000 lots every year, has all been provided for by this power station,” Mr Grover said.

“It is a very significant project in the sense that Horizon Power now has a dedicated generation source for its customers. This combined with the plans for underground power will make for good quality, reliable power for Pilbara residents.”

The state-of-the-art 86 MW gas-fired power station will use less gas but will generate the same amount of electricity as a similar station its size and constitution. Thirty-five per cent less gas will be used and 35 per cent less carbon dioxide will be emitted. At the same time, with the advanced technology being installed, other pollutants such as nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxide will be even further reduced. Pollution prevention, energy efficiency and waste minimisation are integral components.

The design of the new power station incorporates an inter-cooled engine which combines the best simple-cycle heat rate of any gas turbine in its class today. It significantly increases the airflow by cooling the air during the compression process. The result is more power, a better heat rate and a gas turbine without any increase in maintenance costs.

Comprised of two 43 MW high-efficiency General Electric gas turbines, the station can be augmented with a heat recovery steam generator (HRSG) that generates electricity from waste heat. Adding HRSGs and a steam turbine, also known as “closing the cycle”, increases output without the need to burn any more gas fuel.

“For the same turbine size you get more capacity. These turbines are much more efficient and use less gas then we have been using before and reduce the gas consumption. We will get more bang for our buck,” Mr Grover said.

The Karratha power station has been built adjacent to Horizon’s 132 kilovolt substation, giving it a direct link into the local network. It has been designed to allow for expansion to meet the growing needs of the region. The station provides the opportunity to be augmented, up to double its initial capacity, in a short time frame, when consumption dictates the requirement.

The next stage of expansion will be to install a co-generation modules.

Planning to meet the power required for this rapid progress, Horizon Power has produced a strategy titled Gen2012. The plan outlines the need for an extra 100 MW of power in the NWIS (connecting the Karratha, Port Hedland and surrounding towns) by 2012. In order to meet the increased power requirements for the growing industry sector and population in the Pilbara, Horizon Power plans to construct a new gas-fired power station in Port Hedland by December 2012, while ATCO Power also expects to expand.

“We want to be positioned to add another gas turbine and steam turbine when conditions are right for growth in demand in the region,” ATCO Power’s managing director in Australia, Geoff Walshe said.

ATCO Power is currently looking at various opportunities to expand their operations across Australia.

“In spite of challenging economic times around the world, Australia has such a strong growth market. With the experience we have had to date, it is a logical fit for our company to look at other prospective projects,” Mr Walshe said.

The estimated capital cost of the Karratha project is $180 million. Horizon Power will spend $27 million for network interconnection works, ATCO will provide $140 million for the power station and EPIC $13 million for the gas lateral.

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